ARM Macs?

There has been some rumours that Apple might switch their notebooks to ARM processors away from Intel ones. Does it make sense to me?

While I have a lot of respect for the ARM processor, it is not yet as powerful as the Intel ones. It can probably give the low-end Intel machines like the Atoms, a run for its money, it does not have the necessary processing power to compete against the higher end Intel parts.

That said, there are product niches where the ARM might make better sense than Intel parts. Apple is already very familiar with ARM processors used in their A4/A5 processor for the iPhones and iPads. However, there is the issue of compatibility.

I will say that if there is anyone who can make an architectural shift painless for the user, it has to be Apple, who managed to maintain backwards compatibility from 68K to PowerPC and Intel. They can definitely do it for ARM too, if they want to.

Except that performance will likely take a hit unless they have some spiffy ARM chips coming up in the A6/A7.

Personally, I hope that they do pull it off because it would just further integrate the Apple hardware. With its own ARM based microprocessors, Apple would be able to do things that they wouldn’t, with Intel processors. For example, they can build in DRM into their microprocessors.

I think that Apple definitely wants to go there. They have always loved doing their own hardware. By switching to ARM, this gives them the opportunity to tightly integrate both software and hardware, making projects like OSX86 obsolete.

From a technical stand-point, it can definitely be done. While the ARM processors are slower than Intel parts, the bottleneck in most computing systems today is I/O and a super high-end Intel processor is no use if coupled with a slow harddisk. A combined SSD-ARM system might actually be pretty speedy for most intents and purposes.

All we need is a decently fast processor, speedy flash storage, high speed RAM. That will create a faster over-all computing experience even if it may be slower for specific computationally intensive applications.

I hope that Apple actually does it. Let’s call it the MacBook Hand or the HandBook (get it?). 😀


Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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